Disobedience by Naomi Alderman

disobedience

This is a re-read and I guess it’s not really difficult to tell why I picked it up again: movie-time. Yes, some folks made a movie out of it and it involves some pretty steamy scenes between Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. And because I didn’t remember any steamy scenes in the book I went and read it again – I know, I kinda got a one-way mind…

Well, what I did remember was that I liked it despite the lack of eroticism. And I still do.

Let me tell you what it’s about:

Ronit Krushka receives the crushing message that her father Rav Krushka has died. While at first, she’s not sure what to do, she later decides to return to her hometown Hendon – an Orthodox Jewish enclave close to London – for the mourning period of one month.

Hendon hasn’t changed much from how Ronit remembers it, even her old flame Esti is surprisingly still there – married to Ronit’s cousin Dovid, who’s being treated as the Rav’s successor by the synagogue board. But Dovid isn’t the orator the old Rav was, he isn’t Rav-material, and many are sure he’s also not husband enough to keep his wife in check.

Now, I’m not a religious person, though I guess I’m spiritually inclined, and texts about religion usually make me uncomfortable. Not Disobedience, though. I really cherish it as a book to learn from about Judaism, about rituals and traditions. It’s interesting to note how there are pocket-societies in Western countries and big cities which keep to themselves.

But Disobedience is not only a novel about religion, it’s also a novel about people. Ronit is a modern woman who left her faith and never returned home while her father was alive. Returning now, she encounters resistance, even though she returned to mourn her father, more than the Rav the community mourns. And while she didn’t even know that Esti was married to her cousin, her life is disrupted in a very different way. Still, Esti welcomes Ronit, hoping that she will change her life after all those years.

There’s so much humanity in this book, but also a lot of information and drama and all that good stuff I love in books. It’s thick with… literary-ty, while it’s not very thick at all. And I usually wouldn’t call a book feminist, but I feel that this one deserves it.

So, if you’re looking forward to catching the movie sometime soon, why not pick up the book first? I’m sure they will be quite different and hopefully, both are enjoyable. And even if the movie doesn’t interest you at all, this book is sooo good – never mind that nerdy stuff I mentioned earlier, it’s funny and insightful and has won a couple of awards too so I guess I’m not the only one who liked it.

Go get and happy reading.

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Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

nineteenminutes

Sometimes, I start a book and don’t finish it. Sometimes, I start a book then put it aside for a while and pick it up later. Usually, I’ll then have to start anew. Not with this book though. I started Nineteen Minutes sometime in December 2016, a library book which I had to bring back before I finished it. Then I didn’t read much and now it’s over a year later, and I finished it – without starting over. The characters just came back to me and the story itself I hadn’t forgotten. It’s haunting, in other words.

Here’s what happens:

Nineteen minutes are all it takes for Peter Houghton to kill 9 of his schoolmates and one teacher. 19 minutes to set up a pipe bomb, enter his school, and shoot a total of 29 people, traumatizing many more in the process.

But what happens after? Peter is still alive and awaits trial. The community of Sterling, New Hampshire is ripped open. Parents are struggling with their children’s mortality, Peter’s lawyer encounters the rage that follows loss, and Judge Alex Cormier has to ask herself what she needs to do to keep her daughter safe: convict a bullied boy who finally snapped, or listen to Josie tell her own story?

This book isn’t an easy read. Considering what happens in the world around us where school shootings are almost common now, and the NRA and their paid-for politicians want to arm teachers, it can’t be. But Nineteen Minutes is not about politics, it’s about loss and grief and also revenge. It’s about a community that struggles to come to terms with a horrible event and its aftermath. Because things don’t end when the perpetrator is in custody, it doesn’t even end with his conviction.

And just as the ending is never in sight, the beginning is just as difficult to pin down. Who started it? Was it the bully who pushed a smaller kid into a locker? Or the kid who then picked up a Glock 17 to make it all stop? Action and reaction, and the dramatic dealings of high school where even some of the cool kids feel bullied by their peers.

There’s a lot in this book, a lot of protagonists, a lot of drama, a lot of stories. Picoult does a great job of keeping it all together, tightly-knit, interesting, exciting. This book won’t let you go and it shouldn’t because Picoult raises many important questions and even gives some answers. Because there is never just one victim or one perpetrator – society creates its own tragedies.